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Teeth Whiteners

By September 28, 2008 - 9:03am
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Does anyone use any teeth whiteners that actually work? I am a smoker and I drink coffee that tends to dull the color of my teeth and without going to the dentist, is there anything over the counter that works well?

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HERWriter Guide

Hi Cindy!

Over the counter strips can work fairly well but for real whitening, you may want to think about heading to a dentist.

I just had my teeth extensively cleaned because I have braces and my orthodontist was VERY liberal with the glue for my brackets and everything is discoloring the glue. Awful. Fortunately, the dental hygienist did a great job but I will have to return every few months until my braces are off and I now drink coffee and tea via a straw. It's annoying but the glue all over my teeth (not just the brackets) turned brown! Ay caramba!- I'd rather have no teeth!

Even though my teeth will be white again once the braces are off (and all that glue!), I'd like to get them properly whitened. I had planned on the Zoom! or Brite Smile treatment that runs around $800 dollars per session (you only need one session but teeth discolor again over time). My hygienist suggested getting trays instead since the one hour treatments just mentioned can be very painful for sensitive teeth.

Trays are molded to the shape of your own teeth and you take them home with the fluid in little bottles. The trays are used for 30 minutes every day for two weeks and you keep the trays and only need to pay for the bleaching fluid if you want to do it again. The results are the same, or better as the one hour treatments, and the cost is about $280. Doing the trays again a few years down the line would only be about $60 for the bottles since you already have the tray.

So that's what I will have done.

I did the over the counter strips and they did work, but the effect lasts only a fraction of having it done professionally.

Good luck with your decision and hey - quitting smoking will help a lot too - your teeth AND your body will love you for it ;)

September 29, 2008 - 12:12pm

Cindy, I love your question because I see those white-white smiles on television or in magazines and I think, how did those people get their teeth that white? And did they hurt their teeth in the process?

The American Dental Association site has a lot of information on tooth-whitening products, both in-office bleaching and at-home bleaching. Here's a link to their FAQ on tooth whitening:


One thing to know is that people's teeth differ in their natural color to start with, which means the effect of any whitening will be individual as well. Also, if you have a porcelain crown, other bonding or tooth-colored fillings in your front teeth, you should know that the bleaching doesn't affect their color and they might stand out. (Darn. I've had a porcelain crown on a front tooth since I was 17. That means I might need a dentist to work on my teeth, who could more properly match the effect of the bleaching with the color of my crown.)

The at-home tooth whiteners contain peroxide, which bleaches the tooth enamel. The percent of peroxide ranges from 10% to 22%. They typically come in a gel and you use them with a mouthguard. The ADA Seal is given only to dentist-dispensed bleaching kits with 10% carbamide peroxide.

Here's a good NPR story on how tooth whitening works, at all levels of the process. You can read it or click on a button to listen to it:


It mentions that whether you use whitening strips or go to your dentist, the process is the same. You get a faster and more intensive process at the dentist, but of course it costs more.

September 29, 2008 - 9:33am
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